Monday, August 1, 2016

Waitakere Indian Association (WIA) excel,with new executives.


Thakur Ranjit Singh

Racial taunts of “curry muncher” and “get out of this country” were not unusual in the earlier parts of 1980s and 90s in New Zealand. And it was such abuses that inspired the founding President of Waitakere Indian Association (WIA) to think about forming a body as a collective pressure and advocate group to provide support for the growing migrant Indian community (People of Indian Origin) in West Auckland.

The Founding President, Praveen Chandra had told the tenth anniversary celebration of Waitakere Indian Association on 8 May, 2010, that the idea of forming an organisation of Indians took root at a birthday party in Te Atatu Peninsula in 1999. And sixteen years on, that organisation is still going strong, with its latest Annual General Meeting (AGM) on 31 July 2016.

All the president's men and women.The incoming executive members of Waitakere Indian Association elected at AGM on 31 July, 2016. SITTING -from left. Kajal Kumar (Assistant Secretary), Hasmita Singh (Secretary), President, Mahendra Sharma, Sunil Kaushal (Vice President), Manoj Tahal (Trustee/Executive)
STANDING -Left to Right- Hardip Singh (Executive), Preeya Prakash (Executive), Mohini Prakash (Assistant Treasurer), Sunil Chandra (Trustee/Executive), Chandrika Prasad (Executive), Nawal Prakash (Executive) Naveen Prakash (Trustee/Treasurer/Immediate Past President), Arvind Singh (Rohit) (Executive) and Dev Bhardwaj (Executive)
Over the past one and a half decades, WIA has been recognised as one of the best organisations in West Auckland, and perhaps New Zealand and received numerous awards for that. It has established itself as a credible community organisation and has formed sound working relationship with like-minded  organisations, the local Maori, Auckland Council, various ethnic groups, various Government ministries, NGOs, local business communities, the sponsors, and of course with its grassroots membership.

The stormy, rainy, windy and wintery cold last day of July, 2016, in mid-winter, saw a warm function at St John Hall in Henderson Auckland. It was an evening for the grassroots membership and the evening rounded off with networking, socialising and dinner. The membership included thinning and greying - haired senior citizens, jean-clad youths, sari and salwar-kameez clad ladies wing, and of course the smartly dressed engine room of the organisation - the past, present and prospective executive members of WIA. This was a day to continue celebrating an icon of West Auckland.

The big boss: Chairperson of Trustees, Sunil Chandra (standing), addressing the meeting while the Secretary, Hasmita Singh (left) is taking notes and the Treasurer Naveen Prakash is engrossed in the financial figures.
The meeting was first addressed by Chairperson of Trustees, Sunil Chandra, who thanked the outgoing executives for a job well-done. WIA has a three tier system, with Trustees, Executives and general membership. The permanent nature of Trustees ensures continuity and stability in the organisation, with trustees having powers of veto to ensure smooth functioning of the organisation. Such a system of governance ensures nobody can “coup” the hard work of the organisation at AGM. 

The founding Trustee / President Praveen Chandra has vacated office. The current Trustees are Sunil Chandra, Rameshwar Dutt, Abhay Ballu, Umas Chandra, Naveen Prakash, with Manoj Tahal making the newest trustee. Perhaps this form of a system would suit other similar organisations to keep opportunists away, and for smooth operation. The buck in such an organisation, does not stop at AGM – the Trustees give the final blessing to grant it legitimacy and authority. And that has been the reason for success and stability of WIA, thanks to the learned Trustees, who rarely get recognised for being the foundation and beacon of the organisation.

The two Presidents: Incoming President, Mahendra Sharma (left) watches on while the Immediate Past President/Treasurer , Naveen Prakash addresses the meeting.
The outgoing President Naveen Prakash presented his annual report and outlined the achievements. Apart from the annual popular Waitakere Diwali and Waitakere Holi (being the pioneer of Holi festival in Auckland), WIA was also been involved in other community activities including fundraising for hurricane in Fiji, working with Auckland Council on final death rite issues and working with like-minded ethnic bodies and organisations for well-being of the community. 

Respective Project Managers of Diwali and Holi, Anilesh Kumar and Mahendra Sharma presented their reports and wonderful events they managed. Other reports of successful subcommittees, such as Youth and Sports, Women’s Wing and Senior Citizens reports were also presented. Naveen being a former treasurer guards money very closely and was able to deliver a healthy surplus and bank accounts for incoming executives.

Part of the Senior Citizens at WIA Annual General Meeting
Allocating and delegating responsibilities to Project Managers for specific events provide opportunities for personal development and spreads leadership training and exposure. Its success was self-evident when the last Holi Festival Project Manager, Mahendra Sharma was unanimously elected as the new President.

Part of the members present at AGM
The full Executive Committee for 2016-2017 year are as follows:

President: Mahendra Sharma
Vice President: Sunil Kaushal
Secretary: Hasmita Singh
Assistant Secretary: Kajal Kumar
Treasurer/ Immediate Past President: Naveen Prakash
Assistant Treasurer: Mohini Prakash
Executive Members: Hardip Singh, Manoj Tahal, Sunil Chandra, Preeya Prakash, Chandrika Prasad, Dev Bhardwaj, Arvind Singh (Rohit) and Nawal Prakash.

One uniqueness about AGM at WIA is the smooth election process where most elections have been through consensus, in a cordial atmosphere, with guiding hands of the trustees. And we were blessed by a grassroots member of our community as the next President. Mahendra Sharma – a soft-spoken, humble person.

The new President, Sharma, in his first presidential address laid the basic foundation of the new executive. This, among others, included working closely with police, and having Indian Wardens in Henderson. This will be headed by the new executive member, Nawal Prakash, who is a former senior sergeant of Fiji Military Forces. The other was working with Fire Services to ensure checking on working smoke alarms in our homes. Sharma also emphasised working closely with the Maori community in general and Waipareira Trust in particular. In addition, WIA would work very closely with Shri Ram Mandir and Hindi School. One area of emphasis will be youth development, and well-being of Senior Citizens. Another emphasis would be extending the sphere of WIA with a membership drive to bring in more people on board.

Empowering women. A pride of Indian Community in New Zealand, Constable Mandeep Kaur Sidhu, Ethnic Peoples Community Relations Officer, based at Henderson Police Station. Here she is seen addressing AGM, while the past and incoming Secretary, Hasmita Singh is taking instant-minutes of the proceedings. With these ladies in the forefront and WIA executives comprising some 30%, West Auckland takes pride in empowering its ladies. President, Mahendra Sharma intends to work closely with police and law enforcement in Henderson.
With the mixture of new and the old, and with three trustees in the executive committee, the membership can expect another successful year from a very enthusiastic, energetic and well deserved team. And unlike many similar organisations WIA can boast to be empowering ladies by having some 30% ladies in key positions.

They say, charity begins at home. WIA, a charitable organisation is indeed unique in this way. Perhaps another rarity of WIA is that, while maintaining its transparency and good governance, it remains a community, a grassroots and a family organisation. To reflect this, WIA’s new Executive has two sets of father – daughter team, while there is a husband – wife team as well. It is through such homely and closely-knit team that Waitakere Indian Association continues to be a shining light of charitable organisations in New Zealand.

FIJI PUNDIT congratulates and blesses them in his usual, salutary manner-Aayushmaan Bhava.

[About the Author-Thakur Ranjit Singh is a former Secretary and Executive Member of WIA, and runs his blog site FIJI PUNDIT, covers news and issues that generally miss the radar of commercial news organisations.]